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First Look: iPad Pro & MacBook

I wasn’t a fan of the first 13-inch iPad Pro. I felt it was a product out of step for what it wanted to be: too big to be a tablet, too basic an operating system to be a laptop. Then Apple made the seemingly strange move of releasing a smaller version, and it suddenly made sense.


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The 9-inch version of the iPad Pro is the perfect iteration of the iPad range. With more grunt, a better screen and sound system than the iPad but all at the same size. Add the Pencil and Smart Keyboard accessories and it becomes a great device for working on while travelling. However, without these add-ons, and despite the internal upgrades, the iPad Pro may as well be a normal iPad.

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The iPad Pro 9.7”, starting at $1049.

The Pencil acts like your mouse and is useful for drawing with. On a smaller-sized screen, having a precise pointer is more important than on the larger screen, especially when using design and building apps.

The iPad Pro’s Smart Keyboard, despite its small size, is easy to type on. The keys have a pleasing amount of travel (the amount a key moves when pressed) and are spaced apart enough that you don’t accidentally press the wrong key.

Where the keyboard cover felt bulky on the larger iPad Pro, on the smaller version it feels manageable and not too thick. Using it on a table is fine, but it’s annoying and wobbly when using it on your lap.

The iPad Pro has now become my go-to work-out-of-the-office device. So where does this leave the new MacBook?

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The MacBook, starting at $2400.

Outwardly, the new MacBook is indistinguishable from the previous iteration, unless you have the rose gold version. But the insides have all been updated. Faster processors work with improved solid-state storage to create a smoother experience with less waiting for the computer to “think”.

However, despite the hardware improvements, the MacBook still isn’t as fast as I’d like and I noticed it was slow on web-based tasks. The USB-C is still the only port in the machine (other than a headphone jack), so all power and data goes through it. Some people dislike this set-up as you need an adapter if you want to charge the computer and plug in a USB device simultaneously.

Personally, I’ve never found it an issue, mainly due to using cloud-based services and the MacBook’s excellent battery life. Apple claims up to 11 hours of movie playback and while I haven’t tried this test, I know I can work on it all day with no concern about battery life.

While it’s not powerful enough to run heavy workload programs like Photoshop, it runs a full OSX operating system and is stable even when typing on your lap, making it a great travel laptop.

How do you pick? If price is the main factor then the choice is simple, the iPad Pro. Beyond that it gets more complicated. Do you prefer a touch interface or is a trackpad OK? Are you satisfied with a simplified OS? Do you want to carry a stylus with you? Will you be working from your lap a lot? Right now I have both devices and find myself switching between them daily. Apple have made it very hard to choose.

Our writer received these products on loan for this First Look. First Looks are trials of new or interesting products from the perspective of our product experts. Our lab-based tests offer truly objective product comparisons.

by Hadyn Green

Essential specs

Specs MacBook iPad Pro 9.7”
Price $2400 (starting at) $1049 (starting at)
Screen size 12” 9.7”
Resolution 2304 x 1440 resolution at 226 pixels per inch 2048 x 1536 resolution at 264 pixels per inch
Touchscreen No Yes (can be used with Pencil extra)
Processor 1.1GHz dual-core, Intel Core m3 processor
1.2GHz dual-core Intel Core m5 processor
A9X chip with 64-bit architecture
M9 coprocessor
OS OS X El Capitan iOS 9.0
Storage 256GB or 512GB PCIe-based onboard flash storage 32GB, 128GB, or 256GB
Dimensions 280 x 196 x 13mm 240 x 170 x 6mm
Weight 920g 437g (444g for cellular model, Smart Keyboard 220g)
Optional extra USB-C adapter ($40) Apple Pencil ($189)
Smart Keyboard ($279)